Once you’ve managed to find Café East – tucked in a far corner of the car park of the huge Surrey Quays Shopping Centre – you might well think you’ve happened upon a South-east Asian workers’ canteen. It’s effectively one big room, with cream-painted walls but absolutely no attempt at decoration.
The big utilitarian square tables are a little too high for the chairs, and are packed with happily guzzling South-east Asian customers. The menu is an edited-down list, each dish portrayed in an adjoining colour pic: a handful of starters, lots of substantial bowlfuls, some side dishes and a few soft drinks (but no alcohol). The herby summer rolls were a joy, and the beautifully flavoured pho with slices of beef, chicken and prawns was all it should be.
Not only is the food impressive and authentic, it’s inexpensive too, making this an ideal place for groups to enjoy a veritable Vietnamese banquet. Two points to remember: staff don’t supply tap water, only bottled; and if you’re walking or driving here, it’s best to enter the car park via the little (quite hidden) entrance after the main route into the complex, Surrey Quays Road.